The New Cross-Culture 501c3 Rescuing Wheelchair Dogs

Story By Melissa Barrow
Kim Kelly has always been into helping animals. She found Tucson’s rescue community after returning from post-doctorate work. It was their social media alerts that acquainted her with the plight of abandoned special needs dogs in Mexico. Deeply affected, her compassion and determination united to make a difference. Now, her newly official 501c3 is the US arm of a cross-border rescue collaboration with Mexico and Canada to rehabilitate and rehome mobility-challenged dogs.

When people become paralyzed, there are established resources to help them adapt and rehabilitate, but in low-resource regions, canine victims of spinal injury are typically abandoned to die in the streets by those ill-equipped for the financial challenges of a special needs pet. Without someone to tell these stories, people never become aware. The creation of Paws Without Borders US is a story that began with stories: an action-adventure love tale sparked by hearing about – and falling in love with – 3 amazing dogs in need:

Gil, Diego, and Jazmin

It all started with a video about Gil, a partially paralyzed dog on the San Carlos Reservation Northeast of Tucson, who’d be put down if no one could take him. “Something about that dog, something about that moment” Kim recalls, “I just knew I had to help.”  Thanks to that impulse, lots of networking, and relay fostering, Gil now lives with a wonderful family in Durango, Colorado.

In the Spring of 2021, Kim heard about an immobilized dog in Mexico needing a home. With no clue what they were doing, she and a friend drove down to meet Diego, who charmed them immediately, prompting them to launch their first-ever, daring cross-border rescue! Initially adopted here in Tucson, Diego later developed life-threatening complications needing more expert care. Thanks to another rescue group, and the phenomenal efforts of a transporter who braved pandemic travel and closed borders, he’s now frolicking with other wheelchair dogs near Montreal.

Sweet-tempered Jazmin was found with multiple injuries, dragging herself through the Hermosillo streets. She was rescued by Lupita, who works with Vidas Con Causa, aka Paws without Borders Mexico (PWBMX), an established dog rescue run by founders Miguel and Susie, from their home. Kim is frequently challenged, ‘Why Mexico, with so many needy animals here in Tucson?!’  She responds firmly, “This is the work I was called to do.” That calling, first seeded by love for the dogs, blossomed by meeting Miguel and Susie. She tears up reliving her first visit to them, witnessing the depth of love and selfless dedication given to their 100+ rescues. “I felt like they were my people, and I just could not turn my back on them.”  She dove in wholeheartedly, helping to gather funds, and even fostering Jazmin briefly. Paws Without Borders US (PWBUS) was born! Multiple surgeries later, Jazmin is alive and spunky in Kingston, North Ontario.

Miguel and Susie don’t take in easily-adopted dogs; they take in the dogs that need them – the abandoned ones with broken spines and more broken spirits. These are incredibly difficult medical cases requiring thousands of dollars worth of treatment, including multiple surgeries and blood transfusions. Even in Mexico, major medical procedures are costly, and so is the cross-border transport to rehome these dogs, which is all done strictly by the book. PWB pays for USDA paperwork, spaying/neutering, and all vaccines. In mid-November, they’d just accomplished that for 14 incoming Mexican dogs dropped at Kim’s house for a night before heading to Oregon!

Currently, the main goal of PWBUS is to support PWBMX by securing funding and supplies. Hermosillo is the hub filtering requirements to PWBUS, which works with multiple partner groups through cost and labor sharing to get it done. It’s a mighty network of cross-border neighbors collaborating to help distressed dogs. Kim makes it all happen despite a full-time job, so PWBUS would welcome more volunteers!

Funds, and basic supplies, especially food, are urgently needed. Dog food is more expensive in Mexico than in the US! You can help by donating, shopping their Amazon or Chewie wish lists, following them on social media, and most of all, adopting! Mexican street dogs have learned to befriend humans and other dogs to survive, so they make wonderful, adaptable companions. If interested, DM Kim on Instagram or Facebook, or email pawswithoutbordersus@gmail.com.

Learn more and see profiles of adoptable dogs at https://www.pawswithoutborders.org/



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